Editorial: Facade of dog-days calm giving way to high-stakes legislative maneuvers and arm-twisting

Posted August 2, 2019 5:00 a.m. EDT

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett

CBC Editorial: Friday, Aug. 2, 2019; Editorial #8449
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Through these dog days of summer, it may seem to be business as usual at the North Carolina General Assembly. A closer look reveals it has been anything but.

High-stakes legislative maneuvering, arm-twisting and brinksmanship dominate every aspect of work. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars -- $50,000 a day. It highlights the cynical partisan plotting that has forced legislators to make last-minute, costly cancelations of trips to conferences and miss long-planned public meetings inconveniencing local constituents. It is abusive and unnecessary.

Just Tuesday, the House abruptly adjourned its session after Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, sought to move consideration of sustaining Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget to Tuesday, Aug. 6. Indications were that there might be the enough votes to uphold the veto.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who was presiding was clearly caught by surprise. He refused to recognize Jackson for the motion – even after Rep. Greer Martin, D-Wake, pointed out that House rules required acting on Jackson’s request. You can listen in, right here.

Abruptly, Republican Rep. John Torbett of Gaston County moved to adjourn the House – which was rapidly gaveled approved on a questionable voice vote.

Typically mid-week House committees meet in the morning and the House session starts in the early afternoon. But on Wednesday, committees curiously didn’t meet until the early afternoon and the session started at 5 p.m. The much-later than usual session time set up a conflict with a long-planned Guilford County legislative delegation Town Hall to discuss the state budget and other issues with constituents. The meeting involved several Democratic legislators – whose absence would have aided the leadership’s effort to override the budget veto.

The Democratic House members remained in Raleigh. The Guilford senators did make the meeting but inconvenienced the citizens who wished to voice their concerns to ALL the members of their legislative delegation.

Next week the annual meeting of the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures is being held in Nashville. Several House members – eight Democrats and four Republicans – made plans to attend. For nearly all, those plans have been curtailed or canceled because House Speaker Tim Moore refuses pledge there won’t be an attempt to override the veto.

No one should doubt that the following week, when the Republican-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meets in Austin, Texas, there will NOT be any votes since top GOP state legislators who hold leadership posts in the organization will be participating in conference activities.

A tsunami of happy-talk news releases and attacks on Cooper from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office can’t blot out the glare of hypocrisy as the legislature’s leadership seeks to stall, inconvenience and manipulate to pass a budget they know fails to deliver on the state’s most basic needs and obligations.

Each day bitter divisions grow and will be hard to heal. It is past time for legislative leaders to stop the games and shenanigans. They need now, to respond to the entreats and offers the governor has proposed. Begin open and sincere negotiations and produce a budget that delivers for ALL North Carolinians.

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